Ground Beef

Also indexed as:Ground Round, Hamburger
Ground Beef: Main Image

Buying Tips

Ground beef should have a bright red color and be free of gray or brown patches. Beef normally has a purple-red color but takes on a cherry-red hue, known as the “bloom,” when exposed to oxygen. While the exterior is bright red, the interior of the meat retains the darker color. Vacuum-packed beef also shows this purplish color. With lengthy exposure to oxygen, ground beef will turn brown. This is a sign that the beef is no longer fresh and needs to be used immediately. Check the label for fat content and the “sell-by” date. The label may also tell you which part of the animal the hamburger comes from, for instance, the round or chuck. For the leanest possible beef, buy a lean cut of meat and ask your butcher to trim the fat and grind it for you.


Ground beef comes mostly from the chuck, sirloin, and round, though the taste depends more on the amount of fat than on the cut of origin. The fat content of ground beef varies, so it’s important to check the label for this information. A higher fat content makes for a juicy hamburger. For a casserole, where the hamburger is cooked and the fat poured off, a lower-fat ground beef might be a better choice.

Regular ground beef usually contains 25% (and by law may contain no more than 30%) fat by weight.

Definitions for lean and extra-lean ground beef may vary by state but “lean” generally refers to products that contain no more than 10% fat by weight and “extra-lean” refers to products with no more than 5%.

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The information presented in the Food Guide is for informational purposes only and was created by a team of US–registered dietitians and food experts. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements, making dietary changes, or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2024.